CORTANA MALL
Airline Highway / US 61 & 190 & Florida Boulevard / US 190
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

By the mid-1970s, Louisiana's Capital Area was poised for the debut of its first mega mall. 103 acres were sectioned from the 418 acre Cortana Plantation tract. The site was situated 5.3 miles east of the Bayou State State House.

Construction got underway in 1974, under the auspices of Baton Rouge-based Milton J. Womack, Incorporated. In February 1976, the first store opened for business; a 1-level (118,500 square foot) Goudchaux's. This was the Baton Rouge-based chain's first branch location.

The official dedication of CORTANA MALL was held August 4, 1976. The festivities included the grand openings of a 2-level (200,000 square foot) J.C. Penney, 2-level (241,000 square foot) Sears and 1-level (90,000 square foot), Baton Rouge-based H.J. Wilson Catalog Showroom.

Charter stores and services included Thom McAn Shoes, Foxmoor Casuals, Chess King, Dutch Maid Donuts, Record Bar, Waldenbooks, Cortana Holiday Hallmark and a Piccadilly Cafeteria.

The General Cinema Corporation Cortana Mall I-II-III , an in-mall multiplex, showed its first features on August 26, 1976. A 2-level (238,000 square foot) Dillard's welcomed its first shoppers in September. With a retail roster of over one hundred stores and services, and a GLA of 1,386,300 square feet, CORTANA MALL was now the largest shopping center in the state.

The first mall-type center in the city, the open-air BON MARCHE REGIONAL CENTER {1 mile west, in Baton Rouge} had been dedicated in 1960. This shopping venue was enclosed in 1974, shuttered in 1990, and is known today as BON CARRE TECHNOLOGY CENTER. ESPLANADE MALL {3.2 miles southwest, also in Baton Rouge} was the region's first fully-enclosed shopping structure. It was dedicated in 1973.

The first enlargement of store space at CORTANA MALL took place in 1981, when Goudchaux's added a second level. The store now encompassed 237,000 square feet. In the mid-1980s, a 2-level (82,000 square foot) Mervyn's was built, along with a seven store (12,600 square foot) North Wing. The shopping hub now encompassed 1,600,000 leasable square feet.

Over the years, three anchor stores were rebranded. Goudchaux's became a Goudchaux's / Maison Blanche in 1982 and Maison Blanche in 1988. With Dillard's acquisition of Mercantile stores, in 1998, Dillard's bounced from its original anchor spot (at the northeast side of the mall) to the Goudchaux's / Maison Blanche spot (on the southwest).

The original Dillard's store was sold to Saks, Inc., who re-opened the space, as a Birmingham-based Parisian, in December 1998. This store was rebranded as another Saks Inc. subsidiary, Jackson-based McRae's, on September 7, 1999.

In March 2001, May Stores acquired nine stores from Saks, Inc., including the McRae's at CORTANA MALL. This was rebranded as a Houston-based Foley's. Federated Stores acquired May Stores in August 2005. As a result, the CORTANA MALL Foley's received a Macy's nameplate September 9, 2006.

Wilson's Catalog Showroom morphed into a Service Merchandise in 1985 and Steve & Barry's University Sportswear in 2004. This store was shuttered in early 2009. A campus for Birmingham-based Virginia College opened in the structure on October 4, 2010. Mervyn's, shuttered in February 2006, was never retenanted.

Formidable competition arrived in October 1997, with the completion of the region's second mega mall, MALL OF LOUISIANA {4.5 miles south, in East Baton Rouge Parish}. This was followed by SIEGEN LANE MARKETPLACE {5.7 miles southeast, also in East Baton Rouge Parish} in 2002. Baton Rouge's first lifestyle center, TOWNE CENTER AT CEDAR LODGE {1.9 miles southwest, in Baton Rouge} was completed in 2005.

By this time, CORTANA MALL had been in decline for a number of years. This was caused, in part, by the proliferation new shopping facilities in its trade area. Another contributing factor was that the center of population of Greater Baton Rouge had shifted southeast, away from the mall.

A makeover, completed in November 1991, attempted to reverse the mall's malaise. A second update, done in 1997 and 1998, included resurfacing of the parking lot, new interior and exterior landscaping, ceiling treatments and interior lighting. A name change, to MALL AT CORTANA, was also implemented.

The official name of the center reverted back to CORTANA MALL in 2009. This name change was joined by the opening of several new inline stores. These included Trios West, 80 Stitches, Baton Rouge Police Supply, Cozamel Mexican Restaurant, Bernard's Pralines and Goldman's Jewelers. Dillard's was also converted into a single-level Clearance Center.

New York City-based Mall Properties, Incorporated, saddled with an upside down mortgage, gave the CORTANA property back to the lender in April 2011. The Dallas-based Woodmont Company was brought in the manage the property and lease its vacant area. In March 2013, Las Vegas-based Moonbeam Capital Investments, Limited Liability Company acquired the shopping hub.

In January 2016, Cincinnati-based Macy's, Inc. announced that their CORTANA MALL store would be shuttered along with thirty-nine other locations around the United States. The store went dark in March 2016.

One year later, the mall's east anchor store was shuttered, as one of forty-one decommissioned Sears locations. J.C. Penney added to mall's woes by closing their charter anchor spot in June 2017. It was one of one hundred and twenty mall-based stores closed by the Texan chain.

Sources:

"Mall At Cortana" article on Wikipedia
www.urbanprairiewasteland.blogspot.com
www.cortanamall.com
www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.mallproperties.com
http://moonbeamproperty.com